Men in Black has to be one of the oddest film franchises in recent history. The first film was based off a Marvel comic book series but came out before the comic book film bubble that we currently find ourselves in. Despite that it found success and was regarded as a good film (although it’s hardly remembered fifteen years later). The second film was released to poor reviews in 2002 and for ten years the franchise looked like it was dead for good. However, production started on a third film without a complete script in place, and now we have been given Men in Black III. Despite its troubled history, Men in Black III is a solid summer blockbuster.
Men in Black III follows Agent J (played by Will Smith) as he tries to stop an evil alien (played by Jermaine Clement) from killing Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) in the past. The film is directed by franchise veteran Barry Sonnenfeld from a script (if you can call it that given its history) by Etan Cohen, David Keopp, Jeff Nathanson and Michael Soccio. With the script having such a chaotic history its tough to pick out who to give credit to, but the film makes it seem like it was well written for a summer blockbuster. It tackles what could have been a problematic subject (time travel) and actually uses it in some original and interesting ways. While not as quippy as the first film in the franchise, this one does enough to draw some laughter and make you remember why you rooted for these heroes in the first place. However, the majority of the credit for this film has to be given to Barry Sonnenfeld. Besides some pacing issues in the early portions of the film, Sonnenfeld rarely makes a misstep. He brings back the visual energy that was missing in the second installment, and handles the many elements of the film (the action, the suspense and the comedy) pretty well without letting any one aspect overpowering the others.
The film also nails it with the casting. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are both solid in their returns (although their performances and their chemistry in the original film are much greater). Jermaine Clement as the Boris the Animal makes for a fun villain that is just campy enough that he still feels villainous while also being able to work in the lighter tone of the film. Michael Stuhlbarg perfectly plays the best character in the film, Griffin. Griffin can see the outcomes of many alternate timelines, and while it seems like a character like that could easily become convoluted, Stuhlbarg and the creative team never let that happen. Bill Hader and Alice Eve are also great in short roles. However, it is Josh Brolin who is the star of the film. He plays a younger version of Agent K, and he gives a dead-on impression of Tommy Lee Jones.
While certainly not the franchise’s brightest moment, Men in Black III will ultimately be one of the better films of Summer 2012.